Although the project is still in its early phases, some Mercer Island residents are concerned the Commuter Parking and Mixed-use Development Project, set to be built on the former Tully’s Coffee Shop parcel of land may be misleading to the public.
The boundary line for the project currently extends from Tully’s parcel into the adjacent cul de sac and a large portion of the Mercer Island Greta Hackett Outdoor Sculpture Gallery (sculpture park) along Sunset Highway. No design plans had been made official at press deadline as to how much land will be actually used, but there’s a plan to finalize the sale of the property by the end of 2019.
The area was recently zoned in order to build a five-story mixed-use development project, which sets to add 100 underground parking spots. Despite many Mercer Island residents agreeing there is a need for more parking options in the area, some have expressed a feeling of unease that it might come at the cost of loss park space.
The purpose of the project is to create more parking spots to alleviate traffic congestion and allow more commuter access to transportation. If purchased, the city will pay $2 million for the property located at 7810 Southeast 27th St. and will be housed next to the future Sound Transit light rail station, expected to open in 2023.
Ross Freeman, Mercer Island sustainability and communications manager, said the project is very early in the design process and nothing official has been decided.
“The city has selected a developer team to work with, but there are no final designs on the project,” Freeman said.
Freeman explained it’s tough to find unused land on Mercer Island, especially so close to the future Sound Transit light rail station. The lack of options has made the city look at all possible sites.
“When you look at an aerial image of the town center, there’s not that much land that hasn’t been built yet,” Freeman said. “So when a parcel comes up that’s close to the future light rail and it comes up for sale, that’s a big deal.”
Freeman doesn’t know if he can interpret how Islanders are feeling, but understands that Mercer Island, in general, is known for its extensive amount of parkland and losing any of it could be upsetting for community members.
One such person is Mercer Island resident Mark Hirayama. Although Hirayama agrees there is a need for parking spaces and it’s only natural to build more as cities grow, he is concerned about the physical constraints of living on an island.
“Mercer Island has physical constraints since it’s an island. Once parkland is taken away, it’s gone forever,” Hirayama said.
Hirayama has been following the project for the last year, but when he speaks with his neighbors he feels they don’t understand how big of a footprint the new park and ride could potentially have.
“I do not oppose the project itself — I think it’s important for Mercer Island residents,” Hirayama said. “I would just like to see the project be smaller than what’s currently being planned.”
Peter Struck, a member of Concerned Citizens for Mercer Island Parks, also has questions about what will become of the park space and how it might change with the development.
“Does that really create a park-like setting when you’re staring at a five-story building?” Struck said.
Struck also feels there has been a lack of transparency in regards to the park and hopes moving forward there will be more community discussions to inform residents, but also give community members a fair chance to make an informed decision.
Further discussions on the project were expected to take place at Nov. 19 city council meeting. That meeting was held after the Reporter’s press deadline.